I think I picked the right place to study abroad.
Constellations Festival is relatively young, but that doesn’t keep the event from bringing in some of Indie’s finest acts. 2010’s festival included the likes of Broken Social Scene, Sleigh Bells, Local Natives, The Vaccines, and many other fantastic acts. With hopes high for this year, the festival returned to the University of Leeds Student Union on Nov. 12, and it brought acts including Yuck, Braids, The Big Pink, The Antlers, and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks.
One building, five different proper music venues, and nine hours of cramming in as much music as possible is a daunting task to say the least, and thankfully the folks planning this event allowed for seeing the majority of the largest names with ease. They could have easily planned the event in a way that makes more sense musically. This would include The Antlers opening for Wild Beasts, Yuck opening for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and Summer Camp opening for The Big Pink. Thankfully the large acts played back to back in the same venue with the periods in between sets long enough to pop over to another venue and catch the majority of another band’s show.
The culmination of these elements made for one hell of an afternoon and night filled with music, and below are some of the highlights.
This was by far the biggest surprise of the night. I was amused by the sound of Summer Camp after my initial listen of their debut album Welcome to Condale, but I felt as if there was still much to be desired. Although I had my reservations about the group, they put on one of the most delightful performances of the festival. Their love of 80s nostalgia, although they are probably too young to remember the 80s, brought about a charm to the performance. Famous dance scenes from 80s films projected to a screen on stage alongside the upbeat pop duets with some real swing left me wanting to reevaluate my initial stance on their debut.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
One of the most anticipated acts of the festival did exactly what they needed to do. Consistent throughout, Malkmus and company brought their a-game during their hour-long set. Playing mostly new tracks off of Mirror Traffic, they also revisited some of the earlier solo work from Malkmus. The act left me feeling satisfied and lived up to many of expectations I had.
If you are a fan of Yuck’s self-titled debut, you need to see this band live. There are certain things that recorded songs cannot convey, and the sense of raw, distorted power is definitely one of them. The band had some initial technical hiccups after the mics cut out on them toward the end of their last song, and walked off as the stage crew came back on to get everything working properly. The band took it in stride. After walking back on stage frontman Daniel Blumber jokingly announced, “This is our longest encore ever.” The band mixed up their tracks much like in their album, going from one faster paced harder sound to one a bit more reserved. It was the track “Rubber” that stole the show. The 7-minute song provided a visceral listening experience that shook the ears and body to its distorted 90s rock core, something much better understood when experienced instead of described.
This band is easily one of the best in filling the room with their atmospheric sound, regardless of size. That’s exactly what they did on this night. Playing the best from their debut and their second album, The Antlers demonstrated how they are able to beautifully construct songs that in some moments lack vocals yet sound structured, and when the vocals kick in it provides a fine compliment to their rest of their truly gorgeous sound.
It was a bit of a homecoming for the band currently based in Leeds, and their set brought out the largest crowd of the entire night. The large room was packed to the ceiling as the band covered tracks from their entire discography, and the songs both slow and upbeat highlighted the best of the band. Like Yuck, Wild Beasts live proved just how incredibly powerful their vocals are. It felt like a somewhat surreal experience to hear these regular guys produce such operatic and captivating voices. All in all, they gave one of the best performance of the night ending what was already a fantastic day.